Drawings of Holbeach father of archaeology to be preserved and shared

John Stukeley's house at Holbeach.
John Stukeley's house at Holbeach.
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Drawings by the Holbeach man considered the ‘father of British archaeology’ can now be preserved and shared.

Spalding Gentlemen’s Society has secured Heritage Lottery funding (HLF) for an exciting project, the conservation and exhibition of 44 drawings by William Stukeley.

The drawings, which include studies of his Holbeach birthplace, as well as his Stamford house and garden, his house in Grantham and final resting place in Kentish Town, are considered unique.

The society says they “provide details not found anywhere else” and that their importance was recently highlighted by articles in the Antiquaries Journal and the British Art Journal.

Ironically the portfolio of drawings was effectively lost to the academic world for many years, and its existence known only to a handful of members of Spalding Gentlemen’s Society.

Honorary secretary Professor Michael Chisholm said: “It was in the museum; we were holding it, but there it was resting for the best part of 100 years with nobody knowing it existed. But we can do something about that.”

Thanks to the £9,800 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the society will be able to seek the assistance of professional conservationists to protect the drawings.

Society members are in discussions with Ayscoughfee Hall Museum in Spalding to exhibit the drawings, probably in the autumn of 2016.

Dr Chisholm said Stukeley (1687-1765) was a “meticulous draughtsman” and added: “On the whole we regard his drawings as being accurate representations, though he did on occasions stray from that. For example his drawings of Trinity Bridge in Crowland. He did an accurate drawing of the bridge, but in an imagined context. He drew water running under it.”

Stukeley became known as the father of British archaeology as a result of his meticulous recording of Avebury and Stonehenge.

He was a friend of Maurice Johnson, who founded Spalding Gentlemen’s Society, and was also one of its original founding members.

The drawings, dating from the 1720s to the 1760s, came to Spalding in 1910 thanks to former society president Ashley Maples.